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Forza Motorsport 6 / 2nd of October 2015

When the Xbox One launched back at the tail end of 2013 it was accompanied by Forza Motorsport 5, there were probably many like me who considered it an out and out system seller, and perhaps the only reason why they’d invest in a new console on day one. The game though didn’t manage to meet the expectations of an audience used to getting everything, who failed to acknowledge the sheer struggle that developer, Turn 10 Studios, would have likely faced getting anything ready for launch, particularly when the final specifications of the console weren’t settled upon until just shy of the release date. What they achieved though was a miracle, testament to the abilities of a team of dedicated and passionate personnel that consistently deliver the goods with minimal development periods, but ultimately, what they created was the groundwork for their biggest achievement to date, Forza Motorsport 6.
 
Now let me get this off my chest, whilst the bulk of the media decided to leap on Forza 5 and throttle it for not hosting enough content, I still ploughed well over a hundred hours of my life into it. When others slated it for not rewarding players enough with in-game credits or cars, I was sat with millions sitting in reserve and a fleet of high speed vehicles to play around with. Sure, the game had half the content of Forza Motorsport 4, but it was a launch game, and it was unnecessarily lambasted for its use of micro-transactions, much in the same way as Grounding Inc’s Crimson Dragon was, yet neither game rammed them down your throat, and nor were they even remotely close to being essential. And as if that was bad enough, how many out there even thought to praise Turn 10 for adding in additional courses in the form of Long Beach and the legendary Nurburgring? Forza 5 was as good as it could be at the time, yet with its latest release, the magnificent Turn 10 Studios have managed to best it in every conceivable way.


 
First off, there’s really no denying that it takes just a single glance to recognise that Forza Motorsport 6 is a very good looking game indeed, and a significant improvement over its predecessor, despite the fact that it also ran at a silky smooth 1080p/60fps, yet this iteration somehow seems sharper and slicker, and that’s merely scratching the surface. The colours seem to be that little bit more vibrant, the cars – the real stars of the show – look massive on screen and remain intricately detailed, polished to the nth degree. The lighting seems better too, an increased range to its subtly changing hues that vary from blindingly bright to pitch black. However, it must be said that under closer scrutiny, some aspects simply don’t hold up to inspection, the foliage for one is disappointingly poor, the crowd models again little more than 2D sprites which have a knack of somehow disappearing when viewed through a vehicle’s rear view mirror, which sees densely packed grandstands suddenly become empty and lifeless but a moment later. The two main additions though, night-time racing and rain, both look gorgeous, the former showing off the quality of the lighting as Yas Marina’s structures become illuminated in a variety of colours and low headlights pierce the thick veil of night that smothers the Mulsanne end of the Circuit de la Sarthe. The latter sees a multitude of rain drops tracing paths across every window of a moving car, and torrential downpours create deep puddles on the track, the reflections found in which are nothing short of astonishing. So yes, despite its shortcomings, Forza Motorsport 6 really is a beautiful looking videogame, and ranks undisputedly as the best looking racing simulation available on a home console.
 
There has been some disappointment in regards to the rigid structure of the career mode, with some feeling that it is a bit archaic in this regard, but personally, a career mode can hardly represent anything remotely close to the journey of a real world driver if there is no progression. Michael Schumacher, after all, arguably the greatest driver in the history of Formula One, didn’t start off at the very top of the motor racing world, he worked his way up from karts, he did it the hard way, and so, quite frankly, should you. My only issue here – sort of – is the way that the game forces players to finish in the top three in order to progress at all. Forza 5 let players finish anywhere in the top nine racers, I believe, yet its successor instead utilises an age-old arcade racer trick, so yeah, this aspect of the single-player game is a tad antiquated, but then, it does force players to either up their game, or lower the difficulty in order to proceed, as with the variable assists that make Forza Motorsport a game that anyone can play, it really is about finding your level for the optimum racing experience. The career mode is played out across five distinct chapters, known as Stories of Motorsport, which take player from Super Street vehicles (hatchbacks and sporty coupes), through Grand Touring (including modern hyper cars) and on to the pinnacle of motor racing  - well, as close as we can get here - Formula E and Indy Car. Each chapter challenges the player to complete three different series’ of races, and there are a plethora to choose from, so don’t fret about it sounding a little short, trust me, there’s plenty to keep even the most ardent of Forza fanboys going for a very long time indeed.


 
The career mode is also supplemented by a whole host of other one-off races (though you can return to replay them) known as Showcase Events, these represent a vast range of trials, from one on ones with the Stig, to Bondurant Autocross events and many, many more. The bulk of these have been seen before in Forza 4, but thankfully, here we see the return of Endurance Racing, now whilst the career mode does away with the pathetically short two lap races that hurt its predecessor, it’s still a welcome sight to see these gruelling challenges return, though it would be nice if we could see the time of day transition from day to night (or vice versa), but perhaps that is something that we’ll need to wait for Forza 7 for. Another welcome addition (though aren’t they all?) are the Moments in Motorsport challenges that task players with revisiting a particular important step in the progression of motorsport, whether it’s the battle between Ferrari and Ford at Le Mans, some Grand Prix legends from the 60’s or 70’s or the early iterations GT racing, Showcase Events ensure that Forza 6 never gets stale, making it undoubtedly the best career mode outside of Forza 4 which probably still ranks as the finest version to date, but not my much.
 
There’s still much more though, as one might expect, with Free Play, Test Drive and the utterly brilliant Rivals all making return appearances, along with standard online play, but the latest addition to the game mode roster is Leagues. If you’ve ever played Killer Instinct on the Xbox One, you’ll know that when competing online, players are divided up into groups, or leagues, where they compete against one another in the hopes of moving up to the next section where they’ll face an even greater challenges. Well, that model has been implemented into Forza as well, which might just make the online side of the game that little bit more accessible to players who would otherwise avoid it.


 
In terms of its sheer scale, Forza Motorsport 6 is the biggest game that Turn 10 have ever created, it isn’t just a step up from the last game, it’s a truly mammoth sized slice of simulation based shenanigans. There’s a total of 491 cars to drive and explore with Forzavista, which now also allows for some degree of upgrading to be done so that the addition of new front or rear wings, or perhaps even just a new set of alloys, can be examined much more closely. Of course, this has come at the sacrifice of the video content that made it such an interesting addition in the first place, still though Forzavista has always been the ultimate expression of “car porn”, and it still is. There are also a whopping twenty-six environments to race around, resulting in a total of ninety different track variations, which is a gargantuan leap forward, and whilst the majority of these are real world race tracks, there’s also a new addition to the range of fictitious courses that have provided the graphical highlights of the last few iterations, in this case, it’s Rio de Janeiro. The track is a long winding one with steep inclines and a multitude of terrain changes, yet whilst it certainly looks the part, I can’t help but feel that it just isn’t quite up there with Prague and the spectacular Bernese Alps, though these are very hard acts to follow, so it is certainly still a most welcome addition to the series.
 
There is a definite downside to the track list though, they’re pretty much all based in the USA, now whilst the likes of Lime Rock and Watkins Glen are excellent courses, I can’t help but feel that the inclusion of Daytona is not only a poor decision, but a colossal waste of time and energy, it is, after all, possibly the most mundane race track in existence and no amount of time or weather changes could even hope to change that. Where are previous efforts like Suzuka, Tsukuba, the Amalfi Coast or my personal favourite, Mugello? Where, quite frankly, is the utterly spectacular Camino Viejo de Montserrat or the Forza stalwart, Fujimo Kaido? Sure, the expansive list of environments is great, but it could certainly have been better and more varied. I’d like to see the game take in a range of countries that it hasn’t graced before, why not more fictitious tracks based on more of Europe’s most magnificent cities? Why not try Dublin, Edinburgh, Paris, Budapest, Amsterdam, Vienna or Lisbon? What about additional F1 circuits like Surfer’s Paradise (I know we’ve got Bathurst, but Australia has more to offer us), Shanghai and Instanbul? I know that I’m asking for a lot here, but I do hope that Turn 10 continue to add in courses just like they did with Forza 5, and perhaps even find the time to prepare a few more for the inevitable seventh instalment, which brings me to another point.


 
Turn 10 Studios really are amazing, and their counter-parts at Playground Games are a rather talented bunch too, but having each team churn out a game every two years is simply too much. I’d like to see development cycles extended to at least three years between games, giving each studio ample time to deliver a top-notch driving experience, whilst ensuring that neither the main Forza series or Horizon ever get stale. It would surely also present an opportunity to extend each game’s shelf life with additional DLC – though preferably supplementary courses and challenges as opposed to yet more car packs.
 
The presentation here isn’t quite as highbrow as it has been in the last three efforts, though it does yield a small benefit, navigating the showroom to either purchase a new car or select one that you already own is considerably easier. Though when purchasing cars, the game still has a nasty habit of kicking players out of the store as soon as a transaction has been completed, making multiple purchases a rather time consuming affair. Also, hearing Tanner Foust introduce the “Stig’s digital cousin” just makes me miss Jeremy Clarkson, which is particularly surprising as I find the man rather loathsome myself, yet he delivered his dialogue as only he could, so hearing it repeated by someone else just quite sit right. This though, as you’ll have no doubt noticed already, is a rather frivolous quibble to have against a game that is without a doubt a consummate return to form for both the Forza series and its developer, but this marks the full extent of my complaints against it, that’s how good it is.


 
Elsewhere, Turn 10 have once again allowed drivers to tune their cars before each and every race, whilst the sorely missing three screen set-up option also appears to have been resurrected, and not a moment too soon. Unfortunately, I have yet had the opportunity to test this, but as Microsoft have used this feature to showcase the game at both E3 and Gamescon, I think it’s fair to assume that we’ll have access to it too. Now, this leaves me with just one last feature to discuss, and it’s a brand new addition to the series, Mods.
 
Mods haven’t been the recipient of much kindness in the media – well, prior to game’s release anyway – yet, whilst I was initially rather indifferent to them myself, over the course of my time with the finished game, they’ve actually managed to change my mind. Mods are very much akin to Titanfall’s Burn Cards; each one represents a booster of some description and a total of three can be equipped at one time. These cards are split into clear categories, Crew, Dare and Boost – the former offering permanent performance increases that can enhance grip, braking, power and such like, whilst the latter offers XP and credit boosts that are good for just one solitary race. Dare cards are probably the most interesting, however, challenging the player to complete races under specific conditions - typically a set viewpoint and a handicap of some sort. It was only after I received a HUD removing card that I began to really appreciate Mods, it allowed me to stick to my usual choice of view but removed all on-screen clutter, and rewarding me with an additional 15% on top of my normal winnings for the privilege. I couldn’t help but feel that if Turn 10 had somehow been able to introduce this feature in their last game, it would have been heralded as some sort of masterstroke, yet here, where the game quite literally throws both cars and money at the player, it has been almost swept under the carpet. Sure, the purist may not like the idea of it, but they don’t have to use them, cards can also be sold on for a small amount of additional credits anyway, but if you’re prepared to keep an open mind and embrace them, you might just find yourself playing Forza in a whole new way.


 
You know, there’s just very little that can compare to screaming round a gentle bend in the road to witness Drivatar powered opponents tussle with one another, sending plumes of smoke skywards and creating gaps that can be exploited, or the sheer joy that comes with shaving mere tenths of a second off of a previous best lap time. Forza Motorsport 6 is an absolute joy to play and undoubtedly the finest driving game available on today’s consoles, it is unequivocally a must have title and a very strong contender for game of the year. If you appreciate driving games at all, you need to own this, now.
 
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